Navigating tests, changes and red tape is putting some people off travelling, but as Clare Levy, owner of Different Planet Travel, found – getting out there and trying it for yourself can be an enlightening and exciting experience, especially when there is a new Six Senses Ibiza to explore.
I remember in pre-Covid times when an educational invitation would come in, it was an easy decision – “is it something I would sell?” and “can I fit it in the diary?”.
When Flora Thompson-Ashby, the UK sales manager at Six Senses Hotels, Resorts and Spas sent me the most joyous email I have had for over a year asking me to join a trip to their new property in Ibiza, my hand immediately typed yes, but then I paused… The “what ifs” became as important to me as they have been to my clients over these last few weeks. What if the island went amber or red, or I what if I get a positive result in resort?
When the Balearics originally went “green”, the decision was made for me that I should go for it. I am double vaccinated so that made the decision even easier as well.
I secured proof of my vaccination status, book a day two test – which was delivered the day after I ordered it from Qured – and Six Senses arranged the return rapid antigen test I would need for arrival back into the UK. Having that test in resort took 10 minutes to get the result, which was emailed through that evening, so all quite stress-free – it was all super straightforward for me and therefore for clients, I thought.
I had been braced for chaos at Heathrow T5 on the way out, but it was superb. I was straight through in about 10 minutes; I have to be honest, I have been worried about this for clients so had been sourcing VIP Fastrack assistance for them, but it really was fine.
Hearing the captain say those words “crew, doors to automatic and cross check” made me quite emotional. I managed to get away for a family holiday last August to Corfu, but it has been a VERY long year so this made me so grateful.
Landing in Ibiza there was a patient queue, all well managed and it moved along at pace. Staff checked our QR codes by scanning it, then I went through to the passport gate and out in the sunshine and Ibizan heat! Hooray. The concern of what it might be like had been a waste of energy, as it was so well managed.
I spent my first night on the island at the 7 Pines resort, and a good friend who lives on the island picked me up and spent the day with me. He also works as an agent and hearing his take on the island was a real insight and something I want to emphasise.
All the properties are still understaffed, just like hospitality in the UK. As a result the teams are running themselves ragged to provide the level of service clients are expecting. I do think that we as agents and tour ops needs to stress this when booking. The world is still adjusting to Covid and we need to remember to have patience and kindness when we travel: everyone deserves that, so seeing how some guests were treating the staff made me so frustrated.
Having said that – Ibiza is most definitely open for business and basically full! The restaurants are buzzing and bars open. For now, the nightclubs are closed but there is talk of them re-opening soon. A tip for anyone heading there is to pre-book all the external restaurants and hotel ones as soon as possible when you book clients’ trips if you can, as many are already very booked up. Taxis are also scarce on the island, so having a car is very useful.
This was my first visit to any Six Senses property – which is crazy really, after working with them for many years as an agent. The resort is on the northern part of the island at Cala Xarraca and quite frankly a place of utter joy and beauty! We arrived to a vista of edible gardens, beautiful sea views and a sense of beauty that is hard to describe.
The walls are the colour of sunset light and everywhere you look is a photo opportunity – I was there for four days and just couldn’t stop taking pictures. There are 116 guest options when it comes to accommodation – from townhouses, to pool suites, even some beachfront cave suites – and the property is so relaxing throughout.
The rooms are huge and every element has been well thought out. My top recommendation is to take a Sea View category with the larger garden, as they are superb. Roll-top baths, huge separate shower, the best verandas and sumptuous bed... I could go on for hours.
The food is also a real talking point. It is healthy, fresh and has a Middle Eastern influence from the chef, Eyal Shani, a passionate man known as the “founding father of new Israeli cuisine”.
He is best known for his real passion for vegetables, and the resort has its own farm in Santa Gertrudis where he can source from. There is food everywhere, even watermelons marking your walk to the platform to swim in the sea. He made BBQ tomatoes taste like steak! He is genius and I feel healthy so it’s a total win.
The sea views here are incredible and the light just sparkles. The main areas are so delicate with flowers and shaded spots, and considering it is one of the larger Six Senses properties, it feels small. The spa is stunning and we tried several new treatments such as oxygen training. I would have stayed for a year if I could.
Sadly, as we all know, the island has now moved to the amber list as of today, but I was due to head home Saturday, so it was less of an issue for me – plus, for those who are double vaccinated of course, the amber move is less of a concern, as we can do away with the need to self-isolate on return to the UK. So for those vaccinated clients, and families with kids, this is the best time to come: it’s likely you will have the island without the young clubbers, many of whom won’t be vaccinated yet.
We all know travel is complex right now and as agents, we have become FCDO, Covid test and form-filling experts. Is it actually worth all this? YES, wholeheartedly YES! In fact I urge you to travel if you can, as it will remind you why we all love what we do so much.